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08 December 2014

Who won the lottery?

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In October, 2014 the Full Court of the Family Court of Australia considered an appeal in relation to a post separation lottery win by the Wife of $6 million. The winning ticket had been purchased by the Wife from monies that may have been drawn from the parties business and paid to her as a loan (a similar payment having been made to the Husband) or from sources external to the marriage.

The Full Court upheld the trial Judge’s decision that the lottery win belonged to the Wife. The trial Judge made an adjustment of $500,000 in the Husband’s favour because of the wife’s interest in the lottery win.

This decision is not inconsistent with a 2000 decision of the Full Court although in that instance the Court found that the Wife had made a contribution to the post separation lottery win of the Husband.

Whilst all cases turn on their own facts, as a general rule lottery winnings from tickets purchased during the marriage will be treated as a joint contribution by the parties regardless of who bought the winning ticket. A clear intention to keep separate finances and a clear division of financial responsibility may contradict this.

Whether lottery wins are treated as an asset of one of the parties or both will depend on the facts. Even if only one party has made a contribution to the lottery win, the Court may award some of those funds to the other party on future needs factors.

So, win in haste, repent at leisure. Call us if you need advice!

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